Date of Birth
12 December 1978, Austin, Texas, USA
Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan
5' 8" (1.73 m)
Ben McKenzie was born Benjamin McKenzie Schenkkan in Austin, Texas on September 12, 1978, to Mary Frances (Victory), a poet, and Pieter Meade Schenkkan, an attorney. His uncle is playwright Robert Schenkkan. Ben is of Dutch Jewish (from his paternal grandfather), English, and Scottish descent. He attended Austin High School, and played wide receiver and defensive back for the school's football team. From 1997-2001, he attended the University of Virginia, where he majored in Foreign Affairs and Economics.
McKenzie got into acting during his first few years at the University of Virginia, where he appeared in "Measure for Measure" and "Zoo Story." After graduation he moved to New York and appeared off-Broadway in "Life is a Dream" at the SoHo Rep. Additionally, he performed in numerous productions at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, including "Street Scene" and "The Blue Bird." He relocated to Los Angeles in late 2001. His early TV appearances included roles on The District, JAG and Mad TV.
In 2003, FOX premiered the television series The O.C., about affluent teenagers with stormy personal lives who reside in scenic Orange County, California. The show became an overnight success and it put McKenzie on the map as Ryan Atwood.
While appearing in 'The O.C.', McKenzie made his feature film debut in 'Junebug' opposite Amy Adams. The film received high praise at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. He also appeared in a pivotal role in the 2007 film '88 Minutes', which starred Al Pacino. McKenzie's first starring role in a feature film was in the 2008 indie release 'Johnny Got His Gun.' The movie premiered at the Paramount Theater in Austin, TX, McKenzie's hometown, prior to playing art houses where it garnered excellent reviews for his solo performance.
April 9, 2009 NBC replaced the long-running series 'E.R.' after 15 years with a new cop drama, Southland, starring McKenzie as rookie police officer Ben Sherman.
McKenzie is playing Jim Gordon in the Batman-themed series Gotham (2014), beginning in September 2014.
Uncle is Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan
Education: Austin High, graduated 1997; University of Virginia, bachelor's degree 2001
His paternal grandparents both did some acting when they were young. His 22-year-old brother Nate is a Yale graduate working in avant-garde theater in New York. Younger brother Zack, 19, is attending Pomona College, a half-hour away from Los Angeles, and still pondering his future.
He followed his father and grandfather to the University of Virginia, where he graduated in 2001 with a degree in economics and foreign relations.
Son of Austin attorney Pieter Schenkkan and poet-writer Mary Frances Victory.
Has a manager, publicist and lawyer on the payroll (he's shopping for a new agent now that his career is taking off)
He recently moved into a new apartment in Santa Monica and bought a sleek new Infiniti G35, which he concedes he spends more on than housing.
Moved to New York City three weeks before 9/11
While in New York he waited tables to help support himself and shared a bunk bed in a cramped apartment in the city.
Mother: Frances Schenkkan will begin the master's program in creative writing at the University of Texas in the fall. She's been a newspaper reporter and editor, and in the 1980s she served on the Austin Planning Commission and the board of the Austin Child Guidance Center. She is a recipient of the Adele Steiner Burleson prize in poetry at the university. She and husband Pieter have three sons, Ben, Nate, and Zack.
He graduated from the same high school in Austin that the Bush twins (Jenna Bush and Barbara Bush) graduated from. He was a senior the year they were freshmen.
Second cousin of Sarah Drew
Was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2004.
Was voted one of InStyle's "10 Hottest Bachelors Of Summer" in July 2005, placing at number 10.
One of his grandfathers, Robert F. ("Bob") Schenkkan, was an early proponent of both PBS and NPR. In recognition of his work, Austin, Texas' public radio and television stations KUT-FM and KLRU-TV hosted a 90th birthday celebration for him in March 2007, at which McKenzie and many of Schenkkan's other grandchildren spoke.
Played football with (quarterback of the New Orleans Saints) Drew Brees at Austin High School and then against Drew Brees when Drew transferred to a rival school. Is now a Saints fan.
Best friends with Paul Wesley.
Ben's paternal grandfather, Robert Frederic Schenkkan, was from a Dutch Jewish family, and had both Ashkenazi and Sephardi ancestry. Ben's patrilineal ancestry can be traced back to Ben's great-great-great-great-grandfather, Abraham Juda Schenkkan Levie, who was born, c. 1781, in Amsterdam. Ben's great-great-aunt, Martha van der Zijl, died in Auschwitz in 1943; Martha was the sister of Ben's paternal great-grandmother, Josephine van der Zijl. From Ben's three other grandparents, his ancestry is English, with a smaller amount of Scottish.
He is the only actor to have played both Bruce Wayne/Batman and his ally Commissioner James ''Jim'' Gordon.
In September 2015, girlfriend Morena Baccarin announced she was pregnant with Ben's first child and planning to marry him.
Became the father of a baby girl Frances Laiz Setta Schenkkan on March 2, 2016. Baby's mother is fiancee Morena Baccarin. Frances is his mother's name, Setta is from Morena's family, & Schenkkan is his real last name.
Engaged to actress Morena Baccarin, November 29. 2016.
"I've always been kind of a loner. Continue to be. So, in that sense, Ryan and I are the same. I played football in Texas, but I didn't really hang out with the jocks. I did honors courses, but I didn't hang out with those kids, either. I sort of had my own group I hung with occasionally, but I've always been kind of by myself." - When asked about his high school experience.
It's a Fox thing, the bad-boy image. They're trying to type me out. There are worse things in life, you know. I'm just really excited about the opportunity.
"It's against type in the sense of my background, but it's with type in the sense that I am a loner who's new to this business and skeptical about a lot of it." When discussing differences between Ryan Atwood and himself.
"I'm somewhat puzzled about that myself. I did theater in college, so I had already started down that path, but I didn't want to major in theater at U. Va. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I thought I'd get a good education and do some acting at the same time" Explaining why he majored in Economics and Foreign Affairs and not theater.
Sometimes those fears (about fame) creep into the back of your head, but then you slap yourself and think, 'Oh, woe is me! People actually like me.' What a silly thing to worry about. This is a huge opportunity, and I'm excited.
I had one year of struggle. My parents were always there, but I didn't want to rely on them. Now it's moving pretty fast. I'm not rich, but obviously this is fantastic. All I know to do with money is put it in a shoe box anyway.
This whole scene is very strange. It's a very strange town and a very strange business, and it has a tendency to creep me out. Ryan's relationship with Orange County is very similar to my relationship with L.A.: fabulous wealth, and odd people behaving oddly, and I'm definitely a bit overwhelmed. I hope I'm hiding it well.
"I don't like the whole trend of people in the business treating marriage like entertainment. It's either for publicity value or because they're bored. Because they haven't done a movie in a few months, they get married instead." - On Young Hollywood weddings.
[When a Newsweek interviewer asked McKenzie if he thinks The OC should end with Ryan and Marissa getting married] "I've always pushed for the big marriage that the whole entire audience has always seen coming. Ryan and Seth walk down the aisle hand in hand."